Healing Broken Relationships

Healing Broken Relationships

February 26, 2018

Harsh words in the heat of anger. Accusations flying with no patience or logic to restrain them. Kindness being overlooked for rightness. So much hurt can be dealt by those we love.

We let them into our intimate, safe spaces. We trust them with our hearts and our realness. In return, every relationship has some risk of pain. That does not mean that it is not worth loving, worth trusting or worth forgiving . . . but it takes healing.

At its core, healing is a process. Particularly where relationships are concerned, there are at least two perspectives and two wounded souls doing battle. Here are some steps to help:

  1. Listen to what you’re saying and what the other person is saying. I didn’t use “hear” because so many of us hear what we want, hear the opening where we can jump in to be right and hear the sound of our own pulse pounding in our heads as we get enraged. Stop. Listen. Really make sure you are understanding the tone, the facts, the motivations.
  2. Empathize with the other person. This is not easy when you’re upset, but come at it from the, “How are they feeling and why?” and “Which of their points are valid?” and “How is their hurt showing?” Be willing to humble yourself, even if you are not in the wrong. Be willing to understand that a perception does not have to be a permanent viewpoint. Care for them.
  3. Tell them what you are feeling in a calm, rational way. Sit down instead of stand over them. Take deep breaths and really desire to make things better. Perhaps, give each person 3 minutes to share their side without interruption. Use language that is not accusatory, mean or disrespectful. They won’t hear you and will shut down. Be patient and honest.
  4. Go toward change. Healing can require a breather of time, space and location. Let them have it and give it to yourself. It can be far better to step away, rather than to lash out or tap out entirely. Use the distance to reflect on the situation without playing the “Here’s why I’m right and s/he’s wrong” reel in your head. Dwelling on hurt and mistakes only leaves us dwelling in pain. When you’re ready, find a neutral space to re-engage thoughtfully.

In essence, “LET Go” of bitterness and bridge gaps with love. Show that you can be your best and believe the other person will do the same. It takes time and genuine effort.

Healing is not restoring, so embrace the fact that you may not get back to who/where you were before. Brokenness does not always rebound to the same form. But, like melting metal to extract the impurities and make it stronger, your relationship may be strengthened too.

A serious and separate matter is abuse. If you are fearful for your body, your spirit or your well-being, please visit the “Is this Abuse?” page from The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Get guidance, get help. You are loved and not alone.

Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” Jeremiah 33:6 NIV

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Burn No More

December 3, 2014

I’m heartbroken over the senseless and unending “news” coverage about Ferguson. Shame on you media mongers for hiding behind free speech with your contempt, malicious ways and ill motives. May God have mercy on you.

I’m heartbroken for the grieving family who tragically lost their son, for the officer and his family, for the townspeople who lost homes and businesses to a wave of fiery rage, for the staggeringly high intraracial violence that occurs every day, and for those who would let perceived injustice fuel the flames of hatred and looting and pain and hurt on others.

1 John 2:9-11 NIV
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

Burn no more in your souls. Burn no more with words that act like accelerants. Burn no more into the cameras or crowds to cultivate harm. Burn no more for attention’s sake. Burn no more with selfish anger. Burn no more into the hearts of impressionable children. Burn no more to feed the gangs and thieves.

May healing begin. May grace fall on every spirit. May wisdom prevail. May compassion take root. May we all learn how to love again.

John 16:33 NIV
“‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'”

I pray this, Jesus. Amen.

Seeing Hope in the Face of Suicide

December 18, 2013

Some say the true worth of writing is how deeply you stir the soul. What if the soul you need to stir feels helpless, lost or depressed to the point of taking his/her own life? If this is you or you know someone who is struggling, please read on.

Know this: you are not alone and help exists. I urge you to call the number below immediately . . . not later or maybe, right now.

Suicide Prevention

Facing these computer keys, I long to inspire real hope. I long to “make it all better” . . . but I can’t promise that. Instead, I hope with every shred of my being that each soul who sees these words feels wanted, feels connected and feels value in continuing to live.

  1. You deserve to live. I’m not telling you that you have to, not guilting you, not judging you, not demeaning your feelings, not listing all the things that could or should be, and not arguing with your perception. I’m saying that your journey is unique. Yes, it is (not “may be” or “could be” but “is”) immensely painful at times, yet you are not worthless or worth less than anyone else.
  2. Your choices are your own. Life likes to spin us, trick us and distract us from feeling stable. Still, every choice is truly your own. Deciding to face a challenge, addiction or change is not easy, but you don’t have to face it alone or tackle everything all at once. Small steps keep us from feeling overwhelmed and help us recognize progress.

The holidays may seem shiny and jingling with joy, but that is not the case for everyone. The pressure to feel happy, to be ok and to mask pain at parties can be draining. Again, whatever you are facing or feeling, it is valid. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Let me share a story:

Someone very close to me struggled with thoughts of suicide for years. More nights than I can count, we had late chats about how “life isn’t worth living” or “it’s too much to bear” or, the most heartbreaking to me, “no one loves me anymore” coupled with “no one will miss me.” I remember pleading for him to reconsider and to see the bright side. I remember promising to never give up and always be there, so he never felt alone. I remember debating about his drinking and how he was choosing to destroy himself. I remember forcing myself to stay awake long enough to ensure he was in a deep sleep. I remember praying fiercely that he would be alive in the morning, often falling asleep crouched by my bed. Most of all, I remember keeping it to myself so no one would judge him.

Looking back, no one told me the “right way” to speak to someone contemplating suicide. No one said not to argue, not to keep it secret, not to carry the weight. My hope had to flicker quietly behind my breastbone, fearful of being snuffed out by sudden loss. I thank God for the days we had together, particularly the ones where he later chose sobriety and life. I now know that his life and the decision to live it was always his own. I was a hand, a shoulder, a friend, a compassionate companion but not a savior. That’s Jesus.

Now, those nights roll back in as sparks when I need to summon embers of empathy or when everyday trials cast emotional shadows. They give me perspective, they define my character and they remind me of how fleeting and precious, I believe, life truly is.

As a grief facilitator, I am now called to be a steady hand that reaches out when the dark fog of loss seems suffocating. I am not the light (that is within you) nor will I “fix” you. Despite my training, I want to be clear that my degree is not in psychiatry or psychology. For the best care, seek out a licensed professional whom you feel comfortable speaking with and who demonstrates genuine interest in your well-being.

Suicide is not necessarily about weakness, selfishness or mental instability. Forget about the labels. What’s important is that help exists for your hurt. There is no shame in asking for help; in fact, it’s you walking through the door toward greater hope. That door is always open.

Is Sorry Enough?

June 28, 2013

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, sorry isn’t good enough,” or “Say sorry like you mean it?” There comes a time when the one seeking the apology (the presumed victim) may be unwilling or unready to truly accept it, due to deep hurt or perceived harm. Most of us struggle with letting go of our emotional baggage, redefining ourselves after trial and really moving on.

Why is that? Well, imagine your memories are a giant blank canvas, your feelings are its frame and your vulnerabilities are the paintbrush. At first, we come into the world open to experiences and learning, presented as a palette of colors. We innocently hand over the paintbrush without hesitation, seeking shapes, lines and emotions from our family and friends. Inevitably, the world presents us with someone who, possibly through their own past hurts or unintended ignorance, paints with a color that leaves a mark we don’t like to see . . . a swipe across the canvas that unsettles us. So, we paint over it and start anew.

These phases come and go, based on who we allow to have our paintbrush and how much freedom we give them with the palette. Then, the sudden and less controllable things happen: heartbreak, slander and disappointment. We paint over these too, praying for a fresh start; yet, the color sometimes seeps through and tints our present. Worst of all, abuses, physical ailments and grief may not even ask for the paintbrush—they may burn, distress or tear the canvas. We all feel the heat, the harm and the hurt. We carry them, sometimes in invisible ink or buried under layers of cloaking paint, that bubble back to visibility in the revealing light of life.

Sorry, by its very nature, is a tricky thing. However, I believe wholeheartedly that the better statement to seek and embrace is, “I forgive you.” Sorry keeps all the power with the person or thing you believe injured you. It is asking for permission from another for you to heal. While a necessary and appropriate gesture, sorry only works if you are willing to accept it.

Sorry by Tony Albert

For instance, I saw this piece by Tony Albert on display for an Indigenous Australia exhibition at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Many of the artists featured had similar sentiments addressing the official apology for the tremendous wrongs done to their people, but unwilling to believe or truly stomach the “sorry.” Some, it was evident, were voicing their hurts in a vindictive and graphic manner. Others were simply waiting for real, sustainable change. It’s a tough road for all.

Here is the question: how long should a hurt, an oppression, a wrong or a weight live on? I’m serious. This is a provocative question, considering the racial, social, political and religious lines we have in the world. Is it really right to pass anger, prejudice and hate down to the next generation? These are learned beliefs not inherent ones. None of us can claim we want equal, fair or balanced treatment if we aren’t living those things with full love, forgiveness and openness.

Take this work, by Bindi Cole from GOMA as a hopeful and moving example.

Seventy Times Seven by Bindi Cole I Forgive You by Bindi Cole

It was the only piece I saw in the exhibit that was focused on the most powerfully liberating emotion: forgiveness. The video brought me to tears, seeing the apparent struggle to let go within each soul over repeating the simple phrase, “I forgive you.”

I LOVE this quote by Bindi Cole:

I had to go through a process of healing

and a huge part of that healing was around forgiveness . . .

As I forgave I was able to take my power back.

Imagine the paintbrushes you need to reclaim, think of the priceless forgiveness you can “give” yourself by restoring the canvas (like washing away old watercolors) and think of the liberation you can empower the next generation with by merely being an example of hope’s healing power over hate. I challenge you, myself and the world.

Hope for Hurt Souls

April 15, 2013

The media is a megaphone for all voices. And right now, the voice we most need to hear is one of hope. Each instance of violence reminds us of the uncertainty in this world. The tragedy, the shock and the hurt all shake us to the core . . . for a while.

I pray for each soul, each family and, yes, even those who act to harm. Most of all, I pray for us to wake up and see that we are all connected. We spend so much time in blame, in bitterness and in disbelief that we only process the surface of the event. We’re looking at the outcome not the origin.

This past weekend, I heard something that I will never forget, “Every harm begins with a past hurt.” Think about it. Being teased, abused, neglected, ignored, abandoned, degraded . . . they all hurt our hearts and leave an imprint on our spirit. And, if left unresolved, they leave us vulnerable and vengeful. For those who carry unspoken scars and bury the pain deep deep down, that hurt wells up and lashes out.

But when we stand up, forgive, let go, ask for help, move forward and seek grace, we find the hurt gradually ebbs with time. That leaves room for love and communication.

So, I tell you that instead of talking about the weapons, the ways and the whys of horrendous acts after the fact, focus on extending care, compassion and love to others right now. Do not turn a blind eye. Do not say it’s none of my business how a child is treated at home. Do not overlook animal abuse and where it leads. Do not live in fear. Do not let yourself believe that you need any more of feeling like less.

Do offer unconditional love. Do notice how others are feeling and behaving. Do choose your words with care. Do have faith. Do let the ego go and the enlightenment flourish. Do build strong families. Do set a righteous example. Do share hope.

Let’s look with eyes wide open to the source and keep the erosion of society as well as the explosion of malice from continuing. What we do to help others ultimately helps us all.

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